Elmhurst Publishes Future Homes Standard consultation - draft response

On 1st October 2019 the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published The Future Homes Standard consultation with proposals to require, amongst other things, an 80% reduction in carbon emissions from new dwellings by 2025. This was accompanied by a proposed interim step in 2020 and put forward two options: a reduction of either 20% or 31% in carbon emissions.  The deadline for responding to the Consultation is 10th January 2020.

You can read Elmhurst’s draft consultation response here.

Elmhurst widely communicated its response to the consultation, and, having sat on the working groups that drafted it, were able to quickly summarise the changes for members which it published as a news item on the 2nd October. Elmhurst then embarked on a country-wide tour of training events, attended by over 200 members, which culminated in the Elmhurst Building Regulations Conference on the 10th December, attended by another 120 members. At each event we explained the context of the changes, details of the proposal, and the practical implications using our new Design SAP 10 Beta software (which is available to all members free of charge), before discussing our own views on the changes and seeking the input from members.

Having digested members' views we have now reviewed and revised our ‘draft’ consultation response and ask members to have a read and either tell us what you think, or, even better, complete your own response. There is no one better placed to comment than the Elmhurst members who spend their lives analysing and improving the energy efficiency of homes.

Our key messages are:

  1. The Future Homes Standards should reduce carbon emissions by 80% for new dwellings by 2025.
  2. Regulations should also specify a stretch target for each performance metric that local planning authorities can adopt to set higher energy targets to address local needs.
  3. With the long term goal now clearly established, there should be two regulatory changes planned in 2020 (update to SAP 10 and a 31% reduction in carbon) and 2025 (update to SAP12 and an 80 % reduction). In addition, there should be an intermediate change to SAP 11 in 2023 which can include an update on carbon intensity values and changes to accept new and innovative technology.
  4. The Energy Performance Certificate should be used to communicate the three, equally important, metrics of primary energy, cost and carbon. This essential document should also be used to identify the version of the building regulations against which compliance has been assessed and identify any issues, such as where air tightness levels and ventilation strategies may be incompatible.
  5. Cost should be expressed in terms of a minimum EPC rating, and we propose B from 2020 and A by 2025 with incentives such as lower rates of stamp duty be given to early adopters
  6. Minimum back stop values for both fabric and services should be specified in legislation to reduce loopholes however the values quoted are well above current industry standards and that could cause confusion to non-specialists that don’t understand their relevance.
  7. All “requirements” should be specified in the legislation itself and the approved documents should only ever be guidance to achieving compliance. Items of best practice should be omitted and left to trade bodies and competent persons schemes to produce.
  8. SAP must be maintained as close to the truth as possible. Corrupting fuel factors, which have been used as an aid to transition from high fossil fuel, and air tightness results to influence the design should be avoided.
  9. Elmhurst believes that actual carbon values, rather than optimistic predictions, should be used in SAP and revised with the proposed updates in 2020, 2023 and 2025.
  10. Future proofing homes is sensible but unintended consequences should be considered. For example, oversized radiators needed for low temperature systems may be positioned poorly, and the increased body of water may impact on the responsiveness of the system.
  11. All relevant documentation produced in the design and build phase, including the new Building Regulation England Part L report (BREL), EPCs, evidence and photographs  should be made available to the regulatory bodies, the customer and all future owners of the building through a property “log book”.
  12. Ventilation systems should be designed by a competent person and then independently inspected and tested before building regulations sign off.
  13. The proposed BREL report is a good method of demonstrating compliance at the ‘design’ and ‘as built’ stages but these must always be produced by an accredited On-Construction Energy Assessor (OCDEA). Building Control must see evidence of design compliance before building commences.
  14. Obtaining evidence of compliance, including photos, will reduce the performance gap. Photos should be captured independently of the building owner but not necessarily by the OCDEA. Responsibility for compliance must remain with the builder.
  15. All new homes should be subject to an airtightness test.
  16. Pulse should be introduced as an alternative method of testing buildings, even those below 1.5 M3/M2/H.
  17. Transition periods for new regulations should be limited to 12 months from the date the legislation becomes effective and, from that date, any new home that as presented for Building Regulations sign off must comply with the new regulations.

Elmhurst Managing Director, Martyn Reed, thanked his team for working so quickly to get the Design SAP 10 Beta software released, for scheduling and delivering the training and conference, all delivered within eight short weeks. He also praised Elmhurst members who were keen to become involved and share their views and opinions to improve the response and the resulting legislation.

Elmhurst is now seeking input on this draft consultation which will influence its final response before it is submitted by the 10th January deadline. The final submission will also be published for the benefit of members.

Elmhurst expects the results of the consultation to appear in legislation in the spring for adoption in the autumn of 2020.

Consultation on changes to Part L for existing dwellings, overheating and commercial buildings in England is expected within the next few weeks. Changes to building regulations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are also planned.

To read the consultation click here.

To read Elmhurst’s draft consultation response click here.

Article published 12th December 2019

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